West Michigan aviation employees make ‘the engine go’

Business News |May 1, 2017|3 min read

NORTON SHORES, MI – Employees at a new factory in Norton Shores walk into work each day to see a life-size print of a jet engine they help build.


GE Aviation’s GE90 jet engine fan is emblazoned on the floor in the employee locker room at the Johnson Technology factory at 6120 Norton Center Drive. The inside diameter of the fan, which is situated at the back of the GE90 engine, is 112 inches. The fans are large enough for multiple people to stand inside.
Johnson Technology is a subsidiary of GE Aviation.


About 150 GE90 engines will be made in 2017, and the employees at the 35,000-square-foot Norton Shores factory will have a hand in each one, said Bill Millhaem, general manager of the GE90 program, during a grand opening tour on Monday, May 1. The GE90 is the largest and most powerful jet engine in the world. It’s used on the Boeing 777 jet airliner.


The factory produces two small parts: high pressure turbine nozzles and shrouds.


“That’s the moneymaker – that’s what really makes the engine go,” said John Bowman, general manager of supply chain for GE Aviation, of the Norton Shores factory’s contribution to the engines.


The technology and performance of the parts made in Norton Shores differentiate GE’s engines from the competition, he said.


The factory has been operating since late January. It will begin shipping out parts this week, said Kevin Prindable, plant leader.


With 84 employees, the factory is running three shifts, five to six days a week.


GE committed to creating 100 new jobs at the factory by April 1, 2020, to receive an $800,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and a property tax abatement from the city of Norton Shores. So far, it has added 84 toward that goal – hiring is still underway.


The city of Norton Shores granted a 12-year, 50 percent property tax abatement on $4.5 million worth of land and building improvements.


The Johnson Technology headquarters are at 2034 Latimer Drive in the city of Muskegon. Another facility is at 6060 Norton Center Drive, adjacent to the new factory. There are nearly 800 employees between the three sites, which have a total footprint of 220,000 square feet.


“Norton Shores has a long relationship with GE,” said Gary Nelund, mayor of Norton Shores, who also pointed out a cousin who works at the new factory. “Norton Shores very much values and appreciates the investment that you have made in Muskegon. … We look forward to working with you long into the future.”


GE Aviation has been in the Muskegon area since it acquired Johnson Technology in 1997.


Also in attendance at the grand opening were U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, state Sen. Goeff Hansen, state reps. Terry Sabo and Holly Hughes, city of Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron, other local officials and several GE Aviation executives.


GE Aviation recently laid off 74 employees at its Grand Rapids-area manufacturing facility. Prior to layoffs, there were 1,400 employees at its Cascade Township facility, at 3290 Patterson Ave. SE, where components and integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft are made.


GE Aviation, an operating unit of General Electric Company, is a world-leading provider of commercial and military jet engines, and avionics, digital solutions and electrical power systems for aircraft.